Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Sparrowhawk silence

There are three ways I spot Sparrowhawks. First, during their spring soaring flights, high over their territory, when they are very apparent then, though a bit distant. The second is when Carrion Crows alert me to their presence, when they are mobbing them, chasing them mercilessly while uttering the call that gives the name to this blog: a call that I directly translate in my mind as 'sparrowhawk!'. The third one I have got to call 'the Sparrowhawk silence'. It is an eerie silence just after the synchronic clap of many pairs of wings - Feral pigeons, Gulls - that replaces alarm calls in these birds, and the alarmed calls of Blue Tits or Blackbirds: no gull squabbles, no cooing, no chitchat. If I look up during the 'silence', I am bound to see the brown silent shadow of the hawk, flying low across the trees in the park. I have witnessed this a couple of times this week. Today, when the silence happened I was photographing a Mistle Thrush. It was feeding on a small, but exposed grassy area, but it didn't fly off. It just froze, for maybe two eternal minutes, tense, its tail pressed against the ground, just watching. Afterwards, it relaxed and carried on hunting worms as normal.


  1. It's amazing how invisible a Mistle Thrush is when it stands still on the ground, thanks to counter-colouring and disruptive patterns that break up its outline. This picture taken on rough ground is the best example I can find, but even against green grass it just looks like a dead leaf.

  2. I agree Ralph, it must be its powers of camuflage that compell it to sit tight as opposed to fly. It reminded me of the Treecreeper freeze reaction in response to a Sparrowhawk.

  3. Sparrowhawks and Mistle thrush? You are spoiled and I am jealous!